Arrival in Cyprus by Ken Dunn

I will never forget my first experience of Cyprus. Standing at the top of the exit steps from the aeroplane at Larnaca, in mid July, the heat of mid afternoon enveloped me as did the unique smell of the island, a rich mixture of pine forests and exotic spices in a heady, humid atmosphere.

Larnaca airport in 1981 was not the most salubrious airport I had experienced. It was actually worse than the early days of Ercan in the TRNC. I gather things have changed somewhat since then even if it is built on Turkish owned land, which I didn’t discover until much later. But this isn’t a ‘sniping’ statement, just one of simple fact.

This was years after the ‘intervention’ and, frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. The propaganda from the other side had been growing steadily so you can imagine my slight trepidation of arrival in the south of the Island. A British Airways flight from London, Heathrow brought my wife Wendy, our two year old daughter Kate and myself to be met by my father in law, Geoffrey Brierley who had taken up residence in the north with his wife, Eileen, in the village of Lapta in 1970.

The journey from the airport reminded me of a spaghetti western backdrop, the countryside being almost exactly the same as seen in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. Seeing Clint riding up to us would not have been a surprise. Roads in those days were fairly basic being very basic, narrow, single tracked and not a building in sight from immediately outside a much smaller Larnaca to within less than two miles from the Ledra Palace crossing point at Nicosia. We then had to endure the miserable faces of Greek Policeman, grudgingly checking, as slowly as possible, but eventually stamping our passports.  The Turkish checks were much speedier and then we were on our way to Lapta, along a twisting narrow road with a similar landscape on either side as we had seen in the south.

The road down to Kyrenia was quite a ‘hairy’ event. It was extremely narrow, twisting right and left with the evidence of rock falls, especially below the turning to St Hilarion and the descent into Kyrenia itself. And it was into Kyrenia we had to drive. No new dual carriageway or top road had been built then. The only way to Lapta was via the main street of Kyrenia, which was then a two way street!

By this time it was late afternoon but very little traffic had been seen and even less on the coast road west to Lapta. Any traffic we did see were ancient UK vehicles in various states of disrepair with a few old Renaults. As well as this there were only a half dozen buildings from the roundabout, which didn’t exist then, going west out of  Kyrenia to Karaoğlanoğlu. The only single building, which had only been there for a few years was the Dizayn Pottery and after that nothing at all until a much smaller Karaoğlanoğlu itself. No Lemar or any of the other supermarkets existed. Once through Karaoğlanoğlu only two or three houses could be seen until the Deniz Kizi Hotel, much less developed than it is now, and then, well after that, sat the Celebrity Hotel with a few buildings clustered around it and across the road from it.

The road up to Lapta was even more scary than the main route down to Kyrenia. It was much steeper and far more twisting – it still is – as it climbed up to the house, giving sudden glimpses of sheer drops followed by terrifying blind, hair pin bends. The relief of actually arriving at the house was more than welcome.

Walking down to the house, through the orange, pomegranate and lemon trees of the garden did not give a clue as to what I was about to see. Dumping the luggage we were taken upstairs, via the outside staircase to the living room, supplied with a glass of iced, amber liquid and then shown out onto the north facing balcony. This took my breath away as I took in a spectacular, 180 degree view of the land sweeping down to the vivid blue of the Mediterranean which extended right and left for miles and miles.

I knew then I had found a different, gentler form of civilisation and have enjoyed it ever since.

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